Answer These Questions Before You Upgrade

Don't fall prey to shiny object syndrome, no matter how enticing the sales pitch. Make tech decisions with eyes wide open, using these guidelines..

Investing in new technology is an exciting -- yet daunting -- task. Deploying innovative tools holds the promise of getting things done more efficiently, which should lead to a healthier revenue stream. But with the excitement also comes the stress of selecting the right solution.

There's even a name for that apprehension, when you're torn between competing products and plagued by horror stories of failed implementations: Analysis paralysis. 

Considerations should address how much tolerance your business has for disruption: Can data remain in place during an upgrade, or do you need to do a complete hardware refresh? Are you working to solve problems in the immediate term at the risk of creating more problems in a year or two?  Ultimately, businesses do need to dive in and make decisions, but the risk can be mitigated by proper preparation. Answer these questions to get started.

Do you know your business strengths and weaknesses? 

Where your company shines can also help identify where the pain points are. You may be doing a great job serving existing customers but not attracting new ones. You may pride yourself on paying all suppliers on time but your own receivables may be less organized. Then ask: What kind of technology could help you solve that challenge? 

Meet with managers and employees to discuss their pain points, too. Find out how much time they spend on specific activities and what processes could be optimized. For example, if running payroll is taking an entire day, consider automation software. And if you don't have the internal IT staff to support your fast-growing team, consider PC as a Service. The solution lets you combine the cost of hardware, software, and services into a predictable payment.   

How do your employees work? 

Understanding your employees' current work environment and what improvements they'd like to see will help you determine what technology may be needed. Large corporations go astray by imposing tech on their workers without determining whether employees actually need it. If your staff isn't convinced of the value of new IT, it could be a tough sell for them to use it. Don't make an investment without employee buy-in, and watch out for tools or solutions that add complexity instead of reducing it. 

Does your staff require training?

Sometimes, front-line workers aren't ready for new technology. That's where training comes in, but it's important to know what time commitment is needed to bring staff up to speed. Selecting a complex solution with a steep learning curve will inevitably lead to lower adoption. However, even if a solution seems intuitive, don't discount the importance of a quick review session to refresh memories or point out particularly useful features. If the budget is tight, consider training one person, who can then teach other employees.

What are your options? 

Once you have isolated the area you'd like to address with a tech solution, enlist the help of the IT team to provide feedback and potential candidates. Even if one solution seems to shine above the rest, compare it against at least one other. Look for total cost of ownership analysis and ROI calculations, and try to get first-hand accounts from peers who have used it. 

This is also a good place to mention future-proofing: Your organization may need 10GbE network equipment, for example, to handle new workloads. But if you buy backward-compatible 25GbE switches now, then the network will be ready to support higher-speed and higher-capacity storage and servers as they upgrade. Strategic thinking now can pay off in time and money later.

Is tech support available? 

If you are considering a purchase, factor in vendor support. Confirm the hours help is available: If your business runs 24/7, find a vendor or solution provider that can meet that need. Determine what type of support they can provide, not only in learning how to use the solution but also in terms of deploying, integrating, and maintaining it. 

Will this play nicely with existing technology? 

Once you've come up with technology candidates, they'll need to be vetted to ensure they will integrate with all your systems. Newer technologies are not always compatible with older systems or your legacy applications. For instance, a retailer's point-of-sale system should integrate with inventory and accounting software, and vice-versa. Accounting needs to work with CRM, both of which should integrate with marketing.

Selecting a new technology can seem overwhelming. Understanding the challenge and the needs of your employees will provide the foundation necessary to make a well thought-out decision.   

As we said, strategic planning and preparation are the keys to success, and you don't have to do it alone. Dell offers support for small businesses and helps entrepreneurs feel confident with their decisions. The Dell Small Business Advisors team is available by phone or chat to help move your business to the next level. These experts have decades of experience in helping small businesses succeed.